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What are Kawasaki Syndrome, Meningitis & encephalitis and are my children covered?

03 February 2022
One of our biggest fears as a parent is our child becoming sick. Some serious illnesses in children can be treated so your child makes a full recovery once medical care is obtained quickly. Here are the symptoms, causes and treatments for some serious illnesses in children and how you can protect your child with serious illness insurance
Kawasaki syndrome (also known as Kawasaki disease) is an illness that causes inflammation in the blood vessels throughout the body. It is most commonly seen in children under 5 years old. The disease occurs in three phases, the first of which is a fever that lasts for 5 days or longer.

As mentioned above, a child with Kawasaki disease will have a high temperature that lasts for 5 days or longer, and possibly 1 or more of the following symptoms:

  • rash
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • dry, red cracked lips
  • swollen, bumpy, red tongue (strawberry tongue)
  • redness inside the mouth and at the back of the throat
  • swollen and red hands and feet
  • red eyes

Kawasaki disease causes blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen. This can lead to complications in the coronary arteries that bring blood to the heart. If untreated, a quarter of children with Kawasaki disease develop heart conditions. In 2 - 3% of these cases the complications can be fatal.

In fact, Kawasaki disease is one of the main causes of acquired heart disease in children under 5 in the UK. 

Kawasaki disease is always treated in hospitals. Treatment should begin as soon as possible. The sooner treatment starts, the quicker the recovery time and less risk of complications developing. When symptoms are noticed early and treated, children with Kawasaki disease begin to feel better within a few days.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Kawasaki effects around 9 to 20 per 100,000 children under 5 in the USA. The causes of Kawasaki Syndrome are not known. 
Meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It can be very serious if not treated quickly. It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults. Being aware of the symptoms is key to obtaining rapid treatment.

The symptoms of meningitis can develop suddenly. They can appear in any order and only some may appear.


Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • a rash that doesn't fade when a clear glass is rolled over it
  • stiff neck
  • sensitivity to bright lights
  • drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • seizure


You should arrange urgent medical care as soon as possible if you're concerned that your child has meningitis. Do not wait until a rash develops if you suspect meningitis.

There are two types of meningitis: bacterial or viral infection. Viral meningitis tends to get better on its own within 7 to 10 days and can often be treated at home whereas bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.


Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • kissing


It is usually spread from people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat but are not ill themselves, but it can also be caught from someone with meningitis however this is less common.

Most children with bacterial meningitis who receive medical treatment quickly will make a full recovery, but it can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves or other serious long-term problems such as:

  • partial or total hearing loss or vision loss
  • memory and concentration problems
  • epilepsy
  • problems with co-ordination, movement and balance
  • loss of limbs 


It is estimated that up to 1 in every 10 cases of bacterial meningitis is fatal.

A number of vaccines have been developed to help prevent meningitis. These are given to children at multiple stages in their childhood and have a fantastic success rate. However, there is still a risk of developing meningitis - albeit much lower than children who are not vaccinated. 


People with suspected meningitis will undergo hospital exams to confirm the diagnosis and whether they have a viral or bacterial infection. Bacterial meningitis usually needs to be treated in hospital for at least a week.

According to Children’s Hospital.org, one in 100,000 people in the USA are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis  each year - most of them being infants, children, college students and the elderly.
Encephalitis is an uncommon but serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed and swollen. It can be life threatening and requires urgent medical treatment in hospital. Anyone can be affected with it, but very young children and very old adults are most at risk.

Encephalitis can begin with flu-like symptoms such as a fever and headache. More serious symptoms of the condition come on over hours, days or weeks. These can include:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • seizures or fits
  • changes in personality and behaviour
  • difficulty speaking
  • weakness or loss of movement in some parts of the body
  • loss of consciousness

You should contact emergency services to arrange an ambulance immediately if you or someone else is experiencing serious symptoms.

You cannot catch encephalitis from someone else and it is not always clear what causes it. However, it can be caused by:

  • viral infections – very rarely, encephalitis may be caused by the common viruses that causes cold sores or chickenpox spreading to the brain
  • a problem with the immune system – sometimes something goes wrong with the immune system and it mistakenly attacks the brain causing it to become inflamed
  • bacterial or fungal infections – these are much rarer causes of encephalitis than viral infections
  • mosquitoes and ticks 

It's not always possible to prevent encephalitis, but some of the infections that cause it can be prevented with vaccinations such as the MMR and rabies vaccination.


Some people eventually make a full recovery from encephalitis, although this can be a long and frustrating process. Unfortunately, many people never make a full recovery and are left with long-term problems caused by damage to their brain.


Common complications include:

  • memory loss
  • frequent seizures or fits
  • personality and behavioural change
  • problems with attention, concentration, planning and problem solving
  • persistent tiredness
According to Hopkins Medicine.org, 10–15 people per 100,000 are diagnosed in the USA each year, occurring more often in younger people. 

You can protect your child with International Critical Illness Insurance with Avenue from Allianz Care. This policy covers your child’s medical costs, treatment, management related to Kawasaki Syndrome, Meningitis and Encephalitis.


It also gives you the opportunity for a second medical opinion and access to a huge network of specialised hospitals. Learn more about children’s serious illness cover and contact our team for a quote today.